Georgia Patten, founder of Bored George
There’s a fresh generation of fearless young business entrepreneurs, and leading the pack is Auckland-based Bored George founder, Georgia Patten.
Despite the name fronting her range of sunglasses, Bored George (taken from her OE blog name, Not So Bored George), Georgia is anything but bored. In fact, the 26-year-old is juggling an impressive amount of responsibility, spearheading her rapidly growing business that has mushroomed from a small at-home start-up to now servicing more than 55 stockists around New Zealand and with new interest also from Australia.
It’s a remarkable achievement given the challenging business landscape of recent years, and the fact Georgia launched Bored George when she was just 22, with a start-up budget of less than $2000.
While her original offering was a collection of ‘stock standard imported eyewear, more for fun and style than anything else’ selling at local markets, it didn’t take Georgia long to set her sights on bigger and more challenging goals.
“I knew that if I wanted to seriously grow this hobby as a business, I’d need to up the quality and have some design input myself,” she says.
And so she did. Georgia’s ideals are to constantly surpass the current standard of eyewear while keeping sustainability at front of mind. Her newest drawcard is a range made from M49 bio-acetate. While this sounds like a mind-numbing mouthful, it’s actually an exciting direction for eyewear, with M49 bio-acetate classed as biodegradable due to its degree of biodegradation (90%) after an incubation time of no more than six months.
“It’s a constantly changing landscape keeping up with fresh discoveries around sustainability in this industry, but I’m determined to do it as well as possible. I’m really focused on quality and continuing to deliver on that.”
All of the Bored George stylish designs are her own love/brainchild – the result of a lifelong obsession with design, style, and creating. Her 2022 Parkers collection proved an instant success, adorning the faces of thousands of New Zealanders this summer.
“I’m the only one from my group of friends at school who didn’t go to Uni. I actually got rejected from Uni where I applied to study Interior & Spacial Design.
“I thrived off our fashion/textiles classes in high school so there is a certain satisfaction in how things have gone full circle, and I’m now fully embracing all of the elements of the design process and working alongside fashion brands like Max and Sills + Co.”
Having previously worked in a business specialising in wardrobe design, as well as helping run physiotherapy businesses, Georgia yearned for more on every level.
“I’ve pretty much known every job I’ve had didn’t spark the satisfaction I was looking for and I wanted more. It made sense to put my time and energy into something I could grow myself.
“I’ve always run my own ship and not been afraid to pursue things I felt strongly about.”
While Georgia’s first self-designed order for Bored George was 450 pairs of sunglasses (which she had to haggle in order to get the manufacturer to produce such a small run), it represented a giant leap of faith.
She quit her reliable full-time job and poured every penny of her savings, which took a chunk out of her future house deposit, into that first Bored George shipment. Not only was it a huge risk financially but it was also a steep learning curve from sourcing and dealing with manufacturers to arranging everything from packaging and shipping, and, of course, marketing the brand to potential customers.
It’s not just the business learnings that have been steep. Regardless of age and business experience, Georgia has had to repeatedly step up. Fortunately, she’s a fast learner, whip-smart and adept at brushing herself off after failures/learnings.
“It sounds a bit cheesy and cringe, but one of the most valuable lessons has been trusting in having confidence in myself, and not letting other people dim my light. I’m pretty solid at speaking my mind and I think that has helped a lot in getting me to where I am today.”
In the early days, Georgia was juggling working full time, with trying to run her business in the evenings and weekends and also studying some business papers.
“It was a lot,” she admits. “I may have been a bit ambitious! I’m really fortunate that my mum and dad have been really supportive along the way and helped me out when I started the business properly.
“It was really hard at the point I decided to commit to it fully, as it wasn’t big enough to support me at that stage, but in order to grow it I really needed to invest myself into it fully as it was starting to stagnate.”
Her ‘all-in’ attitude is what made the difference to the growth of Bored George – that and the respect earned and personal relationships forged with her stockists.
Trade Shows proved a valuable spawning ground for Bored George to springboard into the New Zealand market. Her first Trade Show surpassed her expectations and hopes of securing one stockist. She secured 13.
Given that she has singlehandedly marketed and grown her brand, Georgia is now in the enviable position of being picky about stockists.
“I don’t want Bored George to become over-saturated here, and I’m nearing my limit of New Zealand stockists. Australia is my next step.”
It’s not just customers and stockists who are impressed at Georgia’s efforts. She was also a recent finalist in the prestigious Westpac Business Awards for two categories: Best Emerging Business and Peoples Choice for the East/South Auckland region.
FashioNZ finds out more.
Where is your business based?
I am currently based in our 100sqm home that my partner and I recently bought, so things are getting quite busy. Our spare bedroom is now my office and storage space, and multiple other parts of the house have been taken over as a storage facility. Things will have to change in the near future, but that only means things are growing.
Some information about Bored George designs and where they are made?
Designing the eyewear is the fun part. I look at current trends, colours, shapes, and then mix this in with what I would want to wear myself. I feel strongly that as it’s my brand, I should feel confident and comfortable in each and every pair I design. This is what finalises my decision when launching a new style.
As mentioned above, we use M49 biodegradable Italian Acetate in our sunglasses. This product is composed of materials such as tree pulp and cotton, and a plasticizer that is of vegetable origin. It is this plasticizer that allows the breakdown of the Acetate that exceeds 90% after 115 days of incubation.
Materials for our sunglasses are manufactured in Italy and are then shipped off to my manufacturer in Hong Kong. As with most companies, finding a manufacturer that suits you, your brand, your quality expectations, and your values is a long and trying process, but I was lucky enough to find John and his team who have produced the incredible eyewear you see today.
Has Bored George gone in a different direction than you first planned?
100%. Bored George started as a hobby, a way to fill my time and cure my boredom. After a year of playing around, I could see potential in what I was doing and decided I would put more time into it. As my following grew, and the brand name grew, I recognised that this could be an opportunity to create something fun, be my own boss, and ideally create a future for myself with flexibility. I never imagined it could be my full-time job.
What sparked the original idea for Bored George?
I guess we go back to my OE. I moved to London when I was 19 and travelled around Europe. While in places such as Italy and Turkey, I was always drawn to the market stalls that had hundreds of pairs of sunglasses. I came home from my travels with many pairs of sunglasses, some were more of a statement than others. I loved each pair, but the quality was poor, and soon after purchasing, they would break. So, when I was looking for an idea for a hobby, importing sunglasses just seemed to make sense.
What was involved in making it happen and getting it off the ground?
I quite often split my Bored George journey in two. Pre-designing and post-designing. In the Pre-designing time, to start importing, I believe I only put in about $2000. which back then seemed like a lot. This was enough to get some stock in New Zealand and get the ball rolling. After a year, I made the call to put everything into the business and start designing. The process of finding a manufacturer, making samples, and being able to cover minimum order quantities took most of what I had been saving in previous years. I didn’t see purchasing a house as a goal in the near future (if only that me could see me now), so I used all my savings to make Bored George happen!
What have been some of the biggest challenges along the way?
Navigating issues surrounding manufacturing has been a common challenge that I’m sure will continue to confront me. The complications that pop have forced me to become strong in my opinions of right and wrong and to stand by my own values and standards.
Importing is another factor that has been and will always be a difficult matter to navigate. With so many changes in the world, importing is an everchanging landscape and on top of prices increasing, wait times being pushed out and other world issues hounding this industry; it’s taught me to be flexible and to adapt my ordering so that I feel more secure in the smooth running of things.
Recently I have changed my sunglass cases to foldable ones which has more than halved my freight costs, not only saving me money but allowing me to courier the product to New Zealand rather than sea freight, saving me time.
What aspect of this journey has been the most enjoyable?
I would say that the amazing people I have met from being in business. The community that New Zealand businesswomen have created and the support network between is something very special.
Being surrounded by like-minded, driven, and determined women has been super empowering and has helped me to grow. I also think this whole journey has created a sense of confidence within myself that I didn’t have before. Everything you go through while running your own business really tests you and teaches you more about yourself.
Something people may be surprised to know about you?
I never used to like sunglasses. Until I was about 18, you would never see me wearing any. So, to go from that to now owning a sunglasses business is a big 180-degree change.
What factors have helped Bored George grow?
Social media, specifically Instagram, has been my saving grace. It’s a great free way to get started and without this, I don’t think I would have succeeded. Of course, now I have many other means of advertising, but Instagram and the community I have managed to grow on there still is my main source for growth. I have fantastic customers who share my brand with their friends, so word of mouth also plays a huge role.